Monday, January 31, 2011

Finn Hudson and the Case of the Missing Original Intent: Part Two


Oh, Finn and Kurt.  Their dynamic has covered so many manifestations, it’s somewhat difficult to sort out.  Early in the show, their relationship was rather simple and darling - it was the Football Player and the Theatre Kid, defying all stereotypes and having an actual friendship.  Kurt, and also Rachel, are character embodiments of what the Glee club represents in Finn’s original worldview.  If Finn stays true to his original intent and opens up to Glee, he should therefore also open up to both Rachel and Kurt. 

And in the early episodes, when Finn’s character arc is on track, this holds true.  Finn and Kurt’s interactions in “Ballad” show a real depth of emotion and shared mutual experience.  Kurt helps Finn express himself emotionally, and together they connect on the commonality of being raised by a single parent.  That scene where the two are retrieving Finn’s dad’s jacket to wear to the Fabrays?  Oh, it kills me.  It’s real, and it’s touching, and it warms/breaks my heart every time.

At the very least, Glee does keep returning to the construct that Finn and Kurt were designed to be brothers.  My issues with their relationship largely take place in the interim, during the Back 9 through to the official step-brothering in “Furt.”  (Yes, I just made “step-brother” a verb.  It’s how I roll.)

Let’s pause for a moment to consider this quote that Cory Monteith gave about his character to GQ magazine:
“I think the stasis of Finn gives characters like Rachel and Kurt room to maneuver.”
In general, I would say that Cory is accurate in this assessment.  I interpret things in a slightly different way, though.  My biggest complaint about Finn’s character in the Back 9 is the sudden collapse of his relationship with Kurt due to a not-quite-there-before homophobia.  Personally, I find it to be out-of-character that Finn suddenly had issues with Kurt’s sexuality, even though it’s true that Kurt was being a touch overbearing in the manifestation of his crush. 

For the sake of argument: it’s also true that Finn hadn’t always been comfortable with doing things that could be interpreted as gay - note his initial lashing out at Kurt in “Ballad” about singing to a dude.  But what happens in the episode?  He listens to Kurt, takes his advice, confides in him, and treats him with respect.  His actions speak louder than his initial hesitations.  It was designed as character progress, and it was lovely.  As far as I’m concerned, after “Ballad,” there should not be any going back to this issue - at least nothing directly related to Kurt.  Forward, writers!  Forward!

But what should have been a touching new friendship between the Football Player and the Theatre Kid turned into a PSA about tolerance and homophobia.  So to me, it’s not necessarily that Finn is in a stasis that allows Kurt room to maneuver, but more so that he is wielded by the writers to make a statement.

And that, I truly abhor.  I cannot sit through that scene in “Theatricality” where Finn calls Kurt’s decorations “faggy” and then Burt yells at him for what feels like forever.  I just can’t.  Burt’s speech is wonderful and lovely, and I 100% agree with what he is saying, but the conspiring events that led to that speech?  I just can’t get on board.  To me, it’s character assassination.  It feels like Ryan Murphy really wanted to write that speech, and then worked backwards in order to achieve the scenario, sacrificing Finn’s - and perhaps even some of Kurt’s - characterization along the way. 

Because Finn?  HE IS NOT SUPPOSED TO FIGHT THE FEELING.  Why, oh why, is Finn still fighting the feeling?!  Yes to Kurt!  Yes to Glee!  We’ve already done this!

But no, the situation and the characters were manipulated in order to make a point, and this is where Finn, and not necessarily his “stasis,” is being abused so the show can hoist a Very Special Message onto its shoulders.  And again, I want to make it clear that I don’t disagree at all with the Very Special Message, I just dislike that storytelling sacrifices were made in order to raise the banner.

After the unfortunate “Theatricality” incident, Finn and Kurt’s dynamic is somewhat tenuous, understandably.  Finn does his best to apologize, in a classic scenario of “Finn-does-something-douchey-and-out-of-character-and-then-eats-humble-pie-until-the-next-time-he-does-something-douchey-and-out-of-character.”  (More about this later.) 

I was impressed that the show handled their relationship from Finn’s side of things in “Audition,” with Finn telling Kurt that he came on too strong, but frankly it irked me that that storyline even happened in the first place.  However, I'm not going to complain about the writers actually following through on such a large conflict they insisted on putting in the show.  Consistency is always good.

But rarely is Finn and Kurt’s relationship consistent within the narrative.  I wish it were.  How great would it be if they continued to interact much like they did in “Ballad?”  But instead, we get Finn praying to touch Rachel’s boobs when Kurt’s dad is in the hospital, and Finn doing little to nothing to stand up to Karofsky, and Kurt refusing Finn’s awkwardly adorable pat on the back in “Grilled Cheesus.”  This should not be, writers!  These two characters created a wonderful little trust bubble friendship for themselves in the First 13 episodes, and it’s unfortunately no longer there. 

But what’s even more unfortunate is that the writers believe it still is.  Suddenly, they tried to pay off the wisps of this faded friendship by writing Kurt into Finn’s best man speech at the wedding.  This is not how good storytelling works!  The relationship wasn’t properly set up in order for Finn’s speech to be a good payoff.  The sad and unfortunate truth is that the “Kinn” dynamic suffered a roller coaster of negative actions, character assassination, and plain old lack of screentime, and hadn’t yet recovered enough to bring the trust bubble back in time for “Furt.”  Sloppy handling, writers.

All things considered, I am hopeful for the future of Finn and Kurt, because at least the writers seem committed to the Finn/Kurt brotherly dynamic.  The ultimate goal in all of this is to return Finn to his original intent, and right his character arc.  If that happens, that inherently includes a patching up of the Finn/Kurt relationship.  So if we can start cultivating a little renaissance of their early interactions, like we saw in “Ballad,” I’ll be a happy camper.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Finn Hudson and the Case of the Missing Original Intent: Part One


Like it or not, it’s undeniable that Finn Hudson is a pivotal character in the show.  He is introduced in the pilot as the catalyst; he joins Glee Club, and the merry band of misfits suddenly doesn’t look so pathetic anymore.  Finn adds that little bit of ethos to the mix, providing some well-intentioned leadership, and is the original proof that just because you’re popular doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk to the “losers.”  The show draws a line between the cool kids and the Glee kids, and Finn is the first one brave enough to cross that line. 

Understandably, this makes him a hugely important character within the construct of the story.  It’s why he’s a main character, and a likeable one at that.  And, considering the original intent of the character, that’s how it should be.  The show sets up the conceit that this boy, even though he’s popular and athletic and a little bit awkward and untrained, has something inside him that makes him special.  That makes him happy.  The whole point of the character is that he’s discovering something about himself.  He wholly embodies the message of the club: it’s about opening yourself up to joy.  And when Finn opened himself up to the Glee Club, it kicked off the whole show.  He is the original proof that there is a “Gleek” in all of us, and that we should embrace it.

And that’s what made Finn great: he embraced it.  Consider Finn’s original solo: he sang “Can’t Fight This Feeling.”  Finn’s arc is about him discovering something inside himself, a true joyousness, that was there all along, and that he can no longer suppress.  It’s about him being able to connect to his deceased father, and to who he, Finn, truly is as a person.  He’s learning who he is, by listening to what’s in his heart.  How beautiful is that?  And what’s even more beautiful is that he says yes to this self-discovery.  He doesn’t want to hold back who he really is anymore.  Finn, from Day One, could not, and should not, “fight this feeling.”

So why, oh why, halfway through Season 2, is Finn still fighting the feeling?

The writers have completely undone any and all original intent the character had.  Finn fought the feeling for oh, maybe the first thirty minutes of the pilot, and then devoted himself to Glee Club, to joy, to his self-discovery.  His arc kept fairly true to this construct through the First 13 episodes, and then suddenly, in the Back 9, things started to go south.  Every moment where Finn becomes wildly unlikeable can be traced back to the notion that the writers are unraveling the progress he’s made as a character simply to forward a plotline, accommodate a musical number, or support an episode theme.  Sometimes I even wonder if they just plain old forgot how to write the character.  Regardless, it’s maddening to see this happen.  Because it takes the first character who opened himself up to joy, and drags him through the mud for rather trivial reasons.

Finn’s arc is one of self-discovery.  At the end of the day, all signs need to point to the  fact that Finn is learning who he is, and that Glee has made him happier than he’s ever been as a result.  Singing should bring him joy.  The Glee Club should be important to him as a result.  And unfortunately, the writers are completely ignoring these details when writing his character.




Finn Hudson and the Case of the Missing Original Intent

Historically speaking, I have devoted much of my Glee writings to the ladies of the show, largely because I relate more to them, and also because I feel the writers have treated them somewhat unjustly at various points in the series.  So, you might be surprised to discover that this exploration is of none other than Finn Hudson.

As I was writing part of the epic “Checking in with Quinn Fabray” post, it occurred to me that the Glee writers have very little understanding on the execution of a character arc.  Quinn’s is particularly dreadful, with the original intention of her arc going completely by the wayside somewhere in the Back 9, never to be seen again.  But you know whose arc is also atrociously screwed up?

Finn Hudson’s.  So, I sat down to try and hash out the issues with his development, and lo and behold, we have another semi-epic on our hands.  I do want to just say that this will be far less involved than the Quinn piece, largely because Finn has had infinitely more screentime and therefore there’s just too much material for me to sort through all of it.  The purpose of this exploration is to look at how the original intent of his character has been derailed, and so all things I discuss will be linked back to this notion.

Regardless, it looks like it’s Finn Hudson Week as we round out the last bit of hiatus before the Super Bowl episode.  Celebrate!



Saturday, January 29, 2011

Millennials, the Internet, and Adulthood

I am 23 years old.  In general, I'm very happy with when I was born - not that I could really do anything about it if I weren't - but I've found that the process of me growing up has aligned conveniently to the progress made in technology.  I feel fortunate enough to remember a time before the Internet.  I remember the excitement of getting a computer in the house.  I remember the first time someone told me about Google.  I remember floppy disks, and that godawful dial-up noise when your modem was trying to access the Internet.  

But I feel equally as fortunate that I was still young enough during the advent of the Internet that it was easy for me to adapt to the new technology.  It became second nature, so it's not like I'm one of those poor Baby Boomers who still has trouble minimizing windows - but I also get to hold on to that quaint little memory of life, pre-Internet.  I get the best of both worlds, and I'm rather happy about that.

It's true; the Millennial Generation (those born 1982-1995) is the first generation to have their worlds cracked open by the Internet.  It has wholly shaped who we have become as human beings - we've had MySpace, LiveJournal, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts.  We congregate on message boards and forums to share our opinions.  The second we wonder about something, we flock to Google to see what we can learn about it.  And most of us have interacted with strangers from far-off places, to find that we actually have something in common, despite the physical and tangible barriers.  We use the Internet in a specific, recreational way, and I can't help but wonder how this generation is going to grow up.

As it is, I feel like I'm one of the Internet Elderly, at the ripe old age of 23.  I guess that's what I get in exchange for being able to still imitate that damn dial-up noise.  But what happens as people in my age bracket grow up?  Are we going to keep our Twitter and Tumblr accounts?  Are we going to keep reading message boards and joining social networking communities?  Will we be married, with kids, tweeting about how we just made a down payment on a house?

I just can't envision it.  The adults that our generation has grown up with haven't embraced the Internet in that way.  They grew up before it could get to them, and so they are content to keep a modest (if cluttered) Facebook page in order keep in touch with old friends, and to play Farmville.  But past that?  Their Internet usage is significantly less, and manifests itself in a completely different way.  I think it was widely regarded that this trend has to do with age alone - young people love the Internet!  Old people don't!  

But frankly, I think this is not quite accurate.  It's not a hallmark of age, it's a hallmark of generation.  The children of Millennials, and their children's children, will be just as hooked on the Internet as we are - if not worse - and it makes me ask the question: what is the social landscape going to look like when the entire world is made up of people heavily embedded in the Internet?

I don't really have an answer for this question, obviously - my crystal ball's in the shop.  But I must admit, I'm wildly curious to see what will happen as my generation ages.  I'm 23 years old.  I'm supposed to be an adult.  But when I have to spend the length of an average work day away from my computer, all I can think is, "I miss the Internet."  That is currently not widely regarded as the hallmark of an adult.

I guess they don't call us the Peter Pan Generation for nothing.  But every generation after us is going to have the same problem, so we're certainly not going to be alone in this.  Will we all just eventually outgrow the Internet, and the way in which we use it to interact with others?  Or will we be forced to negotiate our real life adulthoods with the virtual existences we've built for ourselves in our younger days?  I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens.  Page refresh?

Note: If you'd like to read more about the characteristics of the Millennial Generation, I'm linking the Wikipedia page here.  Because, like any respectable Millennial, I use Wikipedia as a major source of information and think it's totally legit 100% of the time.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chicks & Pixar: Lady Protagonists Onscreen

 Yesterday, a friend of mine shared with me this open letter a woman wrote at, to the minds behind the Pixar movies.  The piece basically states that, while Pixar movies are great, and have great female characters, there are still no female protagonists.  She was way nicer about it than I would be, and still got lambasted in the comments.  Cinematical posted about it here, and then you can read my friend's thoughts here.

Now, this article was originally written in the summer of 2009, and clearly it's gotten a lot of attention - but I still feel the need to add my two cents.  Because essentially, I agree with Linda Holmes and would like to back her up against the bombardment of townspeople crying, "Angry feminists!" at us.

Here's the thing.  Pixar actually has a lot of great female characters.  Most of them are strong, outspoken, intelligent, and independent.  But they are all peripheral.  You can make some arguments about the female characters inciting the story or being integral to the plot - which is great!  But they are not the protagonists.  Let's break it down:

1. Dory, Finding Nemo.  Dory is fantastic.  She's not pigeonholed into any gender roles or stereotypes.  She's endlessly optimistic, and her relationship with Marlin treads mostly in the realm of balancing his neurotic crazy with her own brand of neurotic crazy.  It's sweet and lovely, and no one's complaining.  But Finding Nemo is not Dory's story.  It is Marlin, and Nemo's.  

2. Jessie, Toy Story.  Jessie is hyper, sassy, independent-minded, and outspoken.  Great!  Young girls should know that it's okay to be all of those things.  But is it Jessie's story?  Nope.

3.  Colette, Ratatouille.  Who? you ask.  Ah, yes, that female chef who serves (no pun intended) as a love interest/foil for Linguini.  She's the only lady chef in the place, and is a total badass with her motorcycle and don't-cross-me attitude.  But I'm betting that most of you had to take a few seconds to remember who the hell she was.  Hence, not her movie.

4. Boo, Monster's Inc.  I don't care if the story doesn't exist without the girl.  She does not talk.  She is tertiary to Mike and Sully, as far as I'm concerned.

5. ElastiGirl, The Incredibles.  I love this lady.  She's a wife and mother whose husband's actions drag her back into a lifestyle she willingly gave up - and she kicks ass.  She's whip-smart, quick on her feet, creative, sensible, and exhibits no damsel-in-distress qualities.  She's a pivotal character in the film, but the central emotional conflict is between Mr. Incredible and Buddy/Syndrome, and it's these two who progress the action.

6. I cannot for the life of me remember the girl ant from A Bug's Life.  So there's that.

7.  EVE, Wall-E.  The movie is called Wall-E.  Do we need to argue this?  EVE is great - and her existence helps usher in the message of the movie, and the whole second act - but a) she's a robot, and b) the movie's called Wall-E.  It's kind of a moot point.

8. Ellie, Up.  Ellie is a lovely female character.  She's scrappy and hyper and outgoing and adventurous, and without her, the plot of the film does not exist.  However, she dies within the first 20 minutes.  She is not present for the rest of the film.  She does not make any choices to progress the plot.  She is onscreen only as an ideal.  It is very blatantly Carl's story.

9. Sally, Cars.  All I remember about Sally is that Bonnie Hunt voiced her and I had no complaints about the character.  But that's all I remember.  So is it her story?  Not so much.

The throughline between all these characters is that they are accessories.  They instigate the plot, or they aid the main character, or they set a goal for the protagonist to achieve.  I don't care if they are all kickass female characters.  This is not good enough.  Because even if it's a good representation of a strong female role, she is still not the subject.  She is the object to the subject, and that is still a damaging manifestation of inequality. 

No little girl should be watching a film and thinking, "One day I want to grow up and help my best friend achieve his goals!" or "I hope someone goes on an adventure on my behalf one day!"  No.  No one is a sidekick in their own life.  So what do we do when all the protagonists are boys?

It's mentioned as well that female protagonists are historically represented as princesses.  Hell, Disney lumps all their lady protagonists together and markets them as "The Princesses."  There are a few exceptions (hey, Lilo and Mulan!) but for the most part, lady heros are "princesses."  And if you didn't start as a princess (hey, Belle and Tiana!) you sure as hell ended up as one by the end of the movie. 

And it's okay to like the princesses.  If your kid likes Ariel or Pocahontas or Aurora, that's awesome.  Your kid is allowed to like those things.  But I was not one of those kids.  I was not a Disney Princess child.  I wasn't even really a "Disney kid" because of this.  I loved 101 Dalmatians, largely because there were no "princess" roles in it.  And when I got older I loved Mulan, and Lilo & Stitch, and Emperor's New Groove, because the gender roles weren't really there in their traditional forms.

So what is there for kids like me, nowadays?  Kids who don't want to watch a movie where the girl waits for her "fairy tale ending?"  Kids who don't want to put on a tiara and a poofy gown for Halloween?  Pixar is simply not delivering them, and these alternative female leads need to be there.

As much as I love Pixar's movies, they are not perfect, by any means.  I still don't think Up deserved the Oscar (unpopular opinion alert!).  I have no problems pointing out the shortcomings of the films they choose to make and how they make them.  They still tell great stories, and have undoubtedly had a positive impact on countless children's - and adult's - lives.

It's just, we need women onscreen in lead roles.  Everywhere.  It's not just Pixar.  You can't have a woman protagonist without it being a "chick flick" these days, which boils my blood to no end.  Yes, the storytelling in many romantic comedies has become trite and cliche, but where does that make it okay to denigrate all movies with a female lead?  I understand that there are some fundamental differences between men and women, but wouldn't it be nice if it were possible to write a movie with a male lead, and at the last minute switch it to a woman and not have to change anything else at all?

Remember that movie Salt, with Angelina Jolie?  That movie was originally written for a man.  Then, Angelina Jolie expressed interest, and the studio execs knew that she could draw an audience as an action hero, so they swapped the role.  But they made some changes.  The original script had the Male Salt saving his wife from the villains in some sort of dangerous, physically violent scenario.  Well, when they reversed the roles, they deemed that this action was too emasculating for the Female Salt's husband, and tweaked the script accordingly to preserve the good name of manhood.

Grumble.  I'm very quickly getting off track here, but the message remains the same.  We need women represented onscreen, fairly and objectively, without being the object of someone's desires, goals, or wishes.  She should have her own desires, goals, and wishes - that do not have to do with men, shopping, or marriage.  Women have problems that men have too.  We are all human beings.  We need to build a world for ourselves where there are not men's movies and women's movies, but human movies. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Checking in with Quinn Fabray: the Conclusion

So, what’s the success level of Season 2 Quinn Fabray, and where her character is going?   It’s hard to make an overarching evaluative judgement, and frankly, I’d rather not.  Her portrayal and progress from “Audition” to “A Very Glee Christmas” has shown its fair share of successes and shortcomings - more or less in that order.

I’d say tonally, she began the season on target.  This is largely an evaluation of Dianna Agron’s performance - from “Audition” through “Duets,” her general demeanor is quiet, stoic, detached, and fairly kind, yet rather hardened.  Something heavy was hanging around her in those episodes - an air of sadness, even though we weren’t sure exactly what.  It’s fair to say that this is indicative of a post-baby emotion, but unfortunately we aren’t privy to the details. 

Because of this, I’ve come to the conclusion that Dianna is great at providing material for us to interpret when she’s not the focus of a scene - which is lovely but also maddening because she’s usually not the focus of a scene.  Then again, when she is the focus of the scene, it’s more often than not when the writers are trying to force something that doesn’t align with the character’s arc, and then I go off and start my grousing.   Regardless, this trend seems indicative of the fact that Dianna, as an actor, gets it.  It seems clear to me that she understands Quinn and what she is, and should be, as a character.  She’s grown into the role nicely and she’s impressed me with how she chooses to portray Quinn in the smaller moments.

Of course, it’s the bigger moments that usually work against what Quinn’s character arc should be at this stage, and as Season 2 wore on, this became increasingly apparent.  Any semblance of storyline she’s had this season has been in conjunction with Sam, the Cheerios, or as a weird assist in the Finn/Rachel dynamic.  Is this independence?  I think not.  At least the first four episodes present us with a Quinn who could be hiding some development underneath a thick skin and lack of storyline, and I personally was satisfied with this assumption.
But after “Duets,” through to “A Very Glee Christmas,” it became clearer that whatever was influencing Quinn’s early Season 2 demeanor was merely a fluke, or at the hand of Dianna Agron’s interpretation.  I go back and forth on the Quinn the writers have presented us with thereafter.  While she and Sam were compelling in “Duets,” everything after has been somewhat dull, and untethered from any relevance on Quinn’s character arc.  I’m endlessly dubious about this whole promise ring business, because it feels like a step backwards in developing the character.  Promising yourself to someone else is definitely not indicative of independence.  We’ve also gotten some of snippy Quinn back, towards Rachel and Santana in particular, and while I admit it’s not entirely out of character, is still disappointing. 

And then there are still all those missed opportunities along the way - with the compelling yet offscreen Quinn and Rachel interaction in “Britney/Brittany,” with Quinn’s religion in “Grilled Cheesus,” with the Quinn and Santana dynamic in “Rocky Horror Glee Show,” and especially with the fact that Beth is only mentioned in stretchmarks and breast milk.

In conclusion: the progress and development of Quinn’s character lies entirely in the intersection of choice, power, and kindness, and striking that balance is something the writers aren’t quite accomplishing.  At the very least, Season 2 has presented us with more screentime for Quinn than she had in the Back 9, and for that I am thankful.  Now, it’s time to capitalize on ways to inform her character naturally through the storylines, and keep her arc moving forward to its logical conclusion, acknowledging her past struggles and evolving her into her future.

And, ladies and gentlemen, thus concludes Quinn Fabray Week.  After seven very long and detailed installments, I think we’ve covered all the necessary bases in breaking down all facets of the character.  Thank you so very, very much for reading all these words.  There are so many of them, and I wish the Glee writers would realize how indicative it is of the potential they have, and are wasting, with Quinn’s character.



Saturday, January 22, 2011

Checking in with Quinn Fabray: Part Six


At the beginning of the show, Quinn was astoundingly independent. She was capable of doing everything on her own. She wore the pants in her relationship with Finn, and was in serious control of every situation of her life. Power. Control. Remember that girl? She was independent as hell.

But that independence was an illusion. Quinn was a slave to her status, her popularity, her upbringing, her parents, Sue Sylvester. She was slave to an ideal, slave to the word “should.” Like many things in Quinn’s life, her independence was just a veneer. She was never truly independent. Good stuff, right?

Then she got pregnant, and any semblance of independence - even the illusory kind - went out the window. She had to rely on Finn and Puck and Terri and Mr. Schuester and Rachel and Mercedes and she couldn’t do anything on her own, or by herself. Even the very definition of pregnancy is codependency - you have a baby living inside you, sharing your existence, imposing on your daily choices and routines, 24/7.

So after seeing falsely independent Quinn and completely dependent Quinn, I want a chance for Quinn to be truly independent. I want her to stand on her own two feet, and have her own ideas that aren’t spoon-fed to her by Sue Sylvester or her father or her religion. It’s the logical progression of her storyline, and the fact that the writers seem to be neglecting this is the real disappointment of Quinn’s character. Why do so many people love the scene in “Mattress” where she blackmailed Coach Sylvester? It’s because she’s thinking for herself, and doing things for others - it strikes the divine balance of choice, power, and kindness, the The Three Character Scales of Quinn Fabray.

Earlier, in Part II, I referenced my absolute favorite Quinn moment: the scene she shares with Rachel, and then Puck, in “Sectionals.” I already discussed the portion with Rachel in the framework of kindness, and in this part, the portion with Puck becomes relevant. Quinn told Puck she needed to be on her own; and it was here, at this very instant, that her character was teetering on the precipice of some fantastic development. The embodiment of her arc is that she needs to do things on her own: think for herself, stand on her own two feet, and live her life outside the damaging societal standards she was raised with. Truly independent. Free. Happy. Genuine. Herself.

Tell me that that is not what everyone wants for Quinn Fabray, seriously.

In that moment in “Sectionals,” Quinn was on the brink of discovering those things for herself, and everything was all sweet, dazzling, exhilarating potential. It was in that moment that she was so close to being the best character on the show. She had been stripped completely raw of everything that had ever defined her. She acknowledged the pains she caused. She forgave her enemies. She embraced independence. Choice. Power. Kindness. She was standing on the edge of a cliff, about to take a leap of faith - true faith - into a void, into a world in which she had no identity. She was moving forward into an existence where she didn’t know who she was. She was ready to redefine herself. To discover herself. To be herself: independent.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why that scene is my favorite the show has ever given us, and the epitome of Quinn Fabray’s true potential as an amazing character.

Of course, we all know what happened after that mind-blowing moment (nothing) and so here I am, fussing endlessly over the missed opportunities - the biggest of which being the topic of independence.  Even though Season 2 is treating her considerably well, Quinn Fabray remains rife with potential, and yet is only partially fulfilled.  The complete purpose of her arc has been forgotten and ignored.  Is Quinn independent?  Free?  Happy?  Genuine?  Herself?  And if you answered "yes" to any of those questions, I ask you this: were those developments earned, through screentime and storyline?

Yes; it’s true that so many characters need to be explored, but I cannot get over the fact that Quinn was developed right up to the moment where the arc was dancing with genius, and then dropped completely. Don’t get me wrong: it is frustrating that Tina and Mercedes and Mike have never really had a storyline - and I promise, I still desperately want them to - but I am more specifically exasperated about Quinn because she had the shimmering promise of development, only to have it immediately snuffed out and shuffled to the background. Disappointment doesn’t even begin to describe it.




Friday, January 21, 2011

Checking in with Quinn Fabray: Part Five


I won’t lie; this portion of the Quinn Fabray epic was not originally planned.  And then, somewhere in the middle of the 12 pages I had written, I realized, with a touch of guilt, that I mentioned Finn twice and Quinn’s parents maybe three times.  Whoops.  I think this is largely because these two concepts represent Quinn’s original sphere - her earliest beginnings on the show, before her character developed.

So, I usually only speak of these relationships as a starting point and never really address them in terms of the current situations.  But it’s just as much of an oversight to exclude the original dynamics Quinn had with these people.  We talk about Puck and Beth and how they came along and changed things, and we talk about Rachel and Mercedes and how they came along and helped things, but we don’t talk about Finn and her family who never “came along” because they were there first.  However, it’s because they were first that we should be discussing them.  In a perfect world, these relationships would be the most interesting, because Quinn has changed.  She’s not the same person she was when she formed these connections, and therefore watching them adapt - readily or arduously - as one participant evolves could be fascinating.  But, we’re not seeing it.

Quinn’s family life is virtually invisible.  I understand that all of the characters’ family lives (excepting Finn’s and Kurt’s) are largely unseen, but Quinn’s has some unfinished business.  At the very least, it’d be nice to get a mention of her living with her mother again.  I assume this is true, judging by the events of “Journey,” and also by the ornate hunting-lodge-type setting we saw in “Never Been Kissed” - but it’d be nice to get verbal confirmation.  Remember in the Back 9, when we didn’t know where Quinn was living for five episodes?  Then when we found out, it was just mentioned in a throwaway line in “Laryngitis.”  Underwhelming.  And to boot, the third episode of that stretch was titled “Home.”  Y'know, you'd think they could have worked with that.

Ideally, we should at least understand the current status of Quinn’s relationship with her parents.  Does she hate her Dad for verbally disowning her and kicking her out?  Did she ever?  Does she hate her Mom for being so spineless?  Is she proud of her Mom for kicking her father out?  There’s a lot of interesting material ripe for the picking, if Quinn’s family were ever to be focused on again.  Even if it isn’t going to be explored onscreen - which is defensible, in terms of choice - we still need to at least know where Quinn stands, in terms of these relationships.

As for Finn, the show has seemed to lay the Finn/Quinn coupling to rest, for the most part.  And, when dealing with it romantically, I’d say that’s a good thing.  We’re given the impression that the couple only existed because they were The Quarterback and The Head Cheerleader, and those are the dating roles they're meant to fill.  Not to mention, the pair were hardly ever on equal footing - Quinn bossed Finn around, took advantage of his naivete, and in general was not terribly kind to him.  These are not the hallmarks of a healthy relationship.

But on the flip side of these conventions is where it gets interesting.  Yes, Finn and Quinn were The Quarterback and The Cheerleader, an outward ideal, but to each other, it’s feasible that they both represent a personal ideal.  To each other, they represent a time before things got complicated.  Things were simpler when they were together, before it all.  Who cares if they were happier now, or happier then?  Things were easier then, and that’s attractive.  On top of that, I do believe that they loved each other when they were together, in whatever way they knew how.

As such, the show has alluded to the fact that Finn won’t ever really be over Quinn, because she was his first love - as seen in “Britney/Brittany.”  That’s an interesting dynamic.  From Quinn’s perspective, however, things aren’t as clear.  When I was contemplating this, I began mulling over the atonement of Quinn’s actions towards Finn.  She told some pretty life-changing lies, and when it was all said and done, had put Finn through the emotional ringer.  Did she ever apologize to him for that?  Technically, she sobbed “I am so sorry,” at him right before he kicked the chair over, but I find it difficult to count that because it reads like a gut reaction, even if sincerely meant.  It wasn’t allowed its own time and moment - the scene was not about Quinn apologizing; it was about the calamity of discovering the truth.  For me, the closest Quinn has come to a genuine, unaffected apology is solely the admission, “I have hurt so many people,” to, of all people, Rachel Berry.  (This piece of information is now being filed away into my dossier labeled “Why Rachel and Quinn Should Be Friends, For Serious Though.”)

In general, I don’t want for Quinn to always feel like she owes Finn (or anyone) anything.  It’s just, I want to see Quinn’s perspective on her past relationship with Finn, and I can’t see it any other way than involving some sort of contrition, based on the character’s arc.  I don’t feel like there’s been any closure to the Finn/Quinn romance in any concrete way.  Again, looking at each other mournfully during musical numbers does not really suffice when it comes to conclusive character development.  And an official, simple “I’m sorry,” from Quinn, to Finn, without any ulterior motives or manipulation of sympathy towards either party, would be a really touching scene.

Of course, there are rumors swirling of a rekindling of the Finn/Quinn romance, which I am on the fence about.  If they are going to go back down that road, there are certain things that need to happen to pave the way.  And of course, being of little faith, I doubt the Glee writers are going to take those measures and I’ll find myself yelling at the television yet again.

While we’re on the topic of faith, I feel it would be remiss of me to ramble for a whole week about Quinn Fabray and not mention her religion.  This was a huge factor in Quinn’s previous relationships with both Finn and her parents, and her original identity on the show.  Yet, Quinn was virtually invisible in “Grilled Cheesus.”  To me, it seems a logical conclusion that, when devising an episode centered entirely around characters’ relationships with religion, it would be prudent to include the Christian character who got pregnant at 16.  I don’t know; it seems like she might have something to say about her relationship with God other than, “He helped me a lot through those dark times!”  And maybe that’s true.  Maybe I’m imposing my own preconceived notions about religion and prayer onto her character.  But to me, that statement seems like a discredit to her character arc - especially considering she doesn’t currently read like a character with a lot of faith.  More often than not, Quinn gives the impression of being disillusioned, hardened, and rather cynical.

Perhaps I am reaching for things here.  But if you’re going to have a character who has issues with Christianity, isn’t Quinn a great candidate?  I don’t mean to detract from Kurt’s atheism in the episode, but I have to imagine that at certain points during Quinn’s pregnancy/homelessness/parental abandonment, it had to have felt a little like God had turned His (or his, if you prefer) back on her.  I refuse to believe that Quinn’s relationship with her religion has been unchanged by her experiences, and yet all of “Grilled Cheesus” flew by without any indication otherwise.  But that’s understandable; having Finn pray to a sandwich so he can touch Rachel’s boobs is a 100% more worthwhile use of screentime.  (Okay, that was a low blow.  I realize bitterness is not very becoming, but the three storylines chosen for that episode just boggle my mind.  If you’d like to read my less-sarcastic thoughts on “Grilled Cheesus,” please find them here.)

So, after maneuvering through this section I wasn’t originally intending to write, I’ve actually wandered my way to an interesting conclusion:  the representation of Quinn’s original relationships is really rather convoluted.  You could argue that they have largely fizzled out onscreen in any meaningful way, indicating some kind of character development.  But when they are referenced, mostly in dialogue, it’s not in a way that supports the theory that anything has changed at all - it’s almost as if we’re back to Square One.  Yes, Quinn’s not shilling for the Celibacy Club anymore, but she lights up like a Christmas tree when Finn (of all people) mentions finding Jesus.  Yes, Quinn’s apparently not a minion of Sue Sylvester anymore, but she still needs to seek her out for advice about her dating life.  She appears not to care as much about image, but she still needs to be at the top of the pyramid and date a popular football player.  She doesn’t seem to be actively hateful towards Rachel Berry, yet she still wants to punch her in the face every time she talks.  Well, okay.

Of course, there’s also the inverse of these examples: Quinn saying she’s going to do something, and then her actions completely contradict it.  Remember how she stated that she was going to do things on her own?  And then, there she was in the background of the Back 9, appearing to be with Puck.  She said she didn’t hate Rachel Berry, and yet she needs to find a new way to torture her.  Or even better, she said this year was going to be about her, and now here she is, perfectly content to be dating Sam. 

Oh, writers.  It is these inconsistencies that are truly frustrating to the audience, and fans of the character.  Quinn appears to be a different person, having progressed through her character arc - and she should be.  Yet the writers sometimes seem to forget that, and give us episode-to-episode evidence that completely undoes her development.  I really do not understand how they can be so unwitting about the meaning of a character arc, and how it needs to manifest itself in the storylines.  And what’s worse, it’s like they don’t even know Quinn Fabray at all.




Thursday, January 20, 2011

Checking in with Quinn Fabray: Part Four

Before I get started on today's exploration of Quinn Fabray, I just want to say thank you to those following along during the week's festivities!  I'm not gonna lie; I was a little dubious about stretching this exercise over a whole week's time, but I'm very happy it's being well-received.  And, this is my 100th post here at SHE BLOGGO!  Very exciting.  How on Earth have I been capable of writing so much?  Truly crazy.

And, speaking of writing too much, I have actually tacked on two more parts to the Quinn Fabray epic.  So, it will be a full 7-day week, instead of just a work week!  Tonight, I toast to wordiness, and to you, reading this.


Oh, baby Beth.  I honestly don’t know what to think of this child.  It’d be nice to get a mention of her on the show, frankly - other than just flippant cracks about breast milk and stretchmarks.  Having a baby meant something, maybe even everything, to Quinn’s development, and the fact that it’s largely unmentioned is more than a little vexing.  I don’t care if the showrunners want to forget about the shows’ pregnancies: the characters shouldn’t.  And “remembering Beth” does not mean joking about stretchmarks; it just doesn’t.

Yet again, “Duets” seemed to enlighten us most to Quinn’s feelings regarding her post-baby situation, but it did so in the framework of her love life - how does having a baby affect her dating?  Which, granted, is interesting (I’ll take it!), but I wish to know about how having a baby affects Quinn, herself. 

We all have our own impressions of how we think the baby changed her, thanks to the interpretation of a few scenes here and there, but we really should be getting something more concrete and direct.  I don’t think that these extrapolations are necessarily unfounded or invalid, but I’m hesitant to draw a link in places where the writers are not choosing to, and I’m frustrated at the fact that they aren’t.  I’d like to think that something is bubbling under the surface, and that we’ll get a more fleshed-out study in future episodes, but I can’t say I have complete faith that that’s the case.  Perhaps I should.

Even more than direct evidence on how Beth changed Quinn, I want to know Quinn’s feelings towards her daughter and daughter’s adoption.   I have a hard time believing that life could go back to normal so quickly after such an experience, yet all I can conjure up in my brain are assumptions about Quinn’s feelings.  We certainly haven’t heard anything about it from her in Season 2, except in relation to dating Sam.  I know she’s a fairly tight-lipped character, but it needs to be addressed.  And hey, did Quinn ever tell Rachel she gave her baby to Rachel’s long-lost birth mother who didn’t want a relationship with her?  Because that dynamic is just teeming with potential, and I will be adding it to my very long list of reasons of Why Quinn and Rachel Need to Interact. 

As for her love life, Quinn Fabray has never been one to rely on a significant other for personal fulfillment.  Finn, however much she may have loved him, was a status boyfriend.  The show can’t seem to decide what Puck was - a drunken mistake borne of insecurity, or an actual potential relationship.  And frankly, I would like the writers to make up their minds.  I don’t really care one way or the other.  I just want them to decide

The longer they wait on Quick - which, by the way, is either the most ironic or most accurate ship portmanteau - the less patience I have for being jerked around, and the less I will actually want to see them be together.  Puck and Quinn’s relationship, much like Quinn herself, was surprisingly well-developed in the First 13 episodes, and then ill-defined in the Back 9, only to come roaring back with an out-of-nowhere “I love you” in the season finale.  Character whiplash is not doing these relationships any favors, and for the record, having Puck and Quinn randomly look at one another meaningfully during musical numbers does not constitute any kind of progression.  It’s just another stall.

I will say this: really, a Quinn/Puck romance is irrelevant to Quinn’s character arc, which is perhaps why I feel a touch of indifference over whether or not they ever get together.  Quinn/Puck as a romance is primarily a vehicle for Puck’s character development, which I am certainly not going to deny, but I’d rather a relationship be worked into the development of both participants.  Otherwise, one half of the pairing is simply an accessory, an object to a subject, and it’s never fun to see a character disserviced. 

Truly, and unfortunately, the only thing that links Quinn and Puck is a baby that’s not even a part of their lives - or this show - anymore.  I think it’s fair to say that Puck sometimes wants to be with Quinn, but seems incapable of actually doing so, while Quinn seems completely capable of being with Puck but she doesn’t really want to.  Regardless of whether or not you ship it, you can’t say that isn’t compelling. 

In some ways, I think it’d be interesting to explore the idea of having a baby with someone and not actually being with them - especially in high school.  Even with romance off the table, the Quinn/Puck dynamic is rife with potential.  But Glee’s not delving into that.  At best, Quinn and Puck as a couple are being ignored as anything more than a punchline to a joke.  And were they ever together to begin with?  Evidence points in all directions.  I mean, c’mon, show.  Get your facts straight, and commit to something that could be really interesting, eh? 

At the very least, Quinn and Puck’s shared past needs to be honored, outside of the context of dating, and the very real piece of history named Beth needs to be mentioned in a serious and significant way.  It is in this area that Season 2 is sorely lacking, where Quinn is concerned.  The other facets of her character are being represented at least somewhat reliably, whereas Beth and her history with Puck is being left almost completely ignored.  One more joke about stretchmarks and I’ll be at my wit’s end, writers.  If you’re going to joke about it, you damn well better include it in a meaningful way as well.  


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Checking in with Quinn Fabray: Part Three


Here’s my admission.  In a bigger picture, it seems that where the characterization of Quinn Fabray has deviated a bit in Season 2 is in regards to her relationship with Sam.  Now, before the shippers jump on my back, please let me give some (rational, I promise) reasons.

I mean the ship no disrespect.  Quinn and Sam are cute together, and I actually rather like them in “Duets.”  Their rendition of “Time of my Life” is pretty adorable, to boot.  And it is nice to see Quinn happy.  But the thing is, I don’t ship Quinn/Happiness.  I ship Quinn/Good Storyline.  I realize this might make me a bad fan.  And ultimately, I do want Quinn to be happy.  But... she’s a fictional character, and I’m a persnickety television junkie.  I care more about her storyline.

And where, exactly, does Sam fit into her storyline?  Quinn is just one of the shining examples of the Glee writers having no concept of character arc.  Let’s take a moment to examine what Quinn’s trajectory as a character is, and should be.

She started the show as a villain, a Christian character from a WASP-y family with a perfect exterior.  She appeared to have it all.  But this facade began to crumble when she was basically proven to be a hypocrite.  Pregnant at 16, the President of the Celibacy Club.  Sinner, child of God.  Daddy’s Girl, a disappointment to her own father.  Everything that came to define her - how she defined herself - was stripped away.  The things that she loved turned her back on her.  Her family.  Her status.  Her power.  Her control.  One thing didn’t abandon her: the Glee club.

So that character?  Her arc?  It should be about her doing penance for her previous sins.  It should be about her rejecting the expectations of others and learning to live of her own accord.  It should be about her embracing the one thing that embraced her, and discovering who she truly is beyond the bullshit facade that society provided for her.  It should be about her redefining herself in whichever way she chooses, in the aftermath of a huge cataclysm in her life.  Isn’t every character on the show supposed to find themselves through the Glee Club?  Why wouldn’t Quinn? 

The thing is, Quinn has showed very few signs of ever being happy, truly.  Content, sure.  Satisfied, perhaps.  But happy?  The only non-musical number that comes to mind is the baking scene with Puck - and it’s hard to really ground that in anything specifically meaningful.  No, the fact of the matter is that Quinn Fabray is actually a rather joyless character.  Through everything, she’s shown herself to be stoic and intimidating and moody and vulnerable and hardened, and I want to see why.  I want to see her reconciling where’s she’s come from and where she’s going and who she currently is.  She was unhappy.  She was unfulfilled.  And I refuse to believe that all she needed was a dopey blonde-headed boy to come along and make everything bad go away.  It goes against everything the character is.  Acceptance and a baby changed her life.  Glee Club changed her life.  Not Sam.  The existence of Sam as her boyfriend should not make all the problems go away, as though all she was really lacking, all along, was the right boy to love her.  That is a disservice to her character, and quite honestly, to Sam’s as well.

So yes - it’s nice to see Quinn happy.  But I want that happiness to be deserved, when she works through her character arc and comes to some sort of realization as a person and as a character.  I don’t want Quinn to be happy just because she’s got a boy.  She had a boy.  She had two boys.  Both loved her, in their own ways.  And neither worked out.  And this new boy?  He’s basically an amalgamation of the two previous boys, thanks to some wobbly characterization by the writers.  I just can’t see how Sam could be something new for Quinn, something to progress her character and bring meaning to her storyline - and ultimately, that’s what I want for her character.

I will say, however, that “Duets” did a very nice job exploring the potential Quinn and Sam relationship because they talked.  Sam expressed understanding of Quinn’s situation, and that was lovely and he seemed like someone who might be good for her.  Then they were just relegated to making out for the next few episodes, and then BOOM!  Sam gives her a promise ring.  Oh, goodness.  Too soon!  Not deserved yet, writers!  Just because you have a wedding amongst the adults in the episode does not mean you need to mirror it with the kids!  That’s not a necessary storyline parallel!

If Quinn and Sam are going to continue as a couple, I would like for their relationship to be earned.  They need to have scenes where they are relating to one another and not just kissing or progressing their relationship when we haven’t been given good reason to think that they should.  And unfortunately, the writers are only giving us the latter, and that is when I want to chuck things at the television screen.  In all fairness, Quinn and Sam aren’t the only couple suffering from this treatment, and the advice can be generally applied to all pairings across the board.  We need to be reminded, as an audience, of why these people are dating each other.  I know high school relationships can be frivolous, but television relationships are much better when they have meaning.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Checking in with Quinn Fabray: Part Two


 In Part I of this mammoth piece, I analyzed Quinn’s relationship with the Cheerios, and power.  Season 2 has shown us choosing to get her power back, for better or worse.  Power is mostly equated to the “old” Quinn - the one that tortured Rachel Berry and had everything she ever wanted.

Of course, “old” Quinn was completely overridden by “new” Quinn, who was stripped of her power and carried with her a growing baby instead.  And the “new” Quinn?  The “new” Quinn showed inarguable signs of kindness.  This kindness mainly manifested itself in her storyline in “Home” with Mercedes, but also stretched further into small moments like her simple gesture towards Artie during “Dream a Little Dream.”  

Quinn’s kindness has been established.  And now that she has chosen power again, she similarly must continue to choose kindness, or else the character development is lost.  So what’s the status of Quinn’s kindness - and her friendships - in Season 2?

For better or worse, Quinn is somewhat of an isolated character.  In general, I appreciate this attribute of Quinn’s personality, but I do also like the idea of her interacting with others.  It gives us some insight on how she’s conducting herself socially, which is part of her character’s huge change.  Without Quinn having friends to interact with, it’s significantly more difficult to track her development.

Quinn’s oldest friends, within the context of the show, are Santana and Brittany.  I touched a little bit on the Quinn-Santana dynamic in Part I, but I made the mistake of surmising that Quinn and Santana were never friends, which is definitely an oversight on my part.  Confounded absolutes!  It’s more complicated than that, and unfortunately we don’t get a lot of concrete Santana-Quinn interaction without any piss or vinegar.  It’s true that Santana’s loyalty to Quinn runs deeper than one would think - she didn’t rat out her pregnancy to Sue, yet Quinn ratted out Santana’s summer surgery.  Quinn also slept with the guy that Santana had been quasi-dating.  The question of loyalty is certainly interesting with these two.

Regardless, Quinn and Santana can probably be easily classified as the tried-and-true, if somewhat superficial, distinction of “frienemies.”  Season 2 opened up their dynamic instantly, with the fight in “Audition,” and then dropped it just as immediately.  Remember in “Rocky Horror Glee Show,” Quinn and Santana both played Magenta?  What a lovely opportunity to explore the dynamic of two friends and rivals playing the same role.  Magenta, Head Cheerio - a great parallel could have been used there.  But instead, we got to see Mr. Schuester needlessly overturn the whole production so he could be Rocky, and Season 2’s Quinn and Santana are relegated to sniping at and dancing with each other.  Missed opportunities, party of OH-SO-MANY.

Brittany and Quinn are even more mysterious.  Quinn seems to have a permanent “WTF” face in Brittany’s company this season, but it’d be nice to see another dimension to the dynamic.  I’m assuming Quinn is no exception to the “Brittany likes everyone” rule (aside from those few early episodes where Brittany was not quite Brittany yet) but as of yet it’s largely unexplored.  Brittany's unerring and daffy sweetness would either drive Quinn crazy or be exactly what she needs.  Either way, I'm game.

All in all, Quinn’s post-pregnancy relationship with her erstwhile sycophants is maddeningly uncharted, and for a set of characters frequently packaged up and delivered as a trio, they rarely interact in a meaningful way.  Change this, writers!  

Next on the list of Quinn’s friendships is Mercedes.  The writers brought Ms. Jones in during the Back 9 for Quinn to relate to on the topics of body insecurity and feeling like a minority.  Needless to say, I think we all did a double take.  While my initial reaction to Quinn and Mercedes was one of skepticism, I have come to appreciate their dynamic and accept it as something that does need to be continued, even if it was originally a bit out-of-nowhere.  Mercedes and Quinn were a very real entity in “Home,” "Laryngitis," and “Funk,” and Quinn even requested Mercedes to be in the delivery room with her when she had Beth.

So far, in Season 2, the extent of their relationship amounts to occasionally sitting next to each other in Glee Club, and what’s sad is that we consider this an accomplishment of continuity.  Even though they may not seem to be able to relate to one another in their current (lack of) storylines, their friendship needs to be present.  Mercedes opened up her home to Quinn in a time when the girl did not have many good things going for her.  This relationship should not just disappear.

Speaking of relationships that should not disappear, we are now rounding the corner into perhaps my favorite dynamic the show has ever given us: Rachel and Quinn.  It is perhaps a dangerous idea to get me ranting on these two, because I could write pages.  PAGES, I tell you!  Their relationship is genius in that it is tied inextricably into the show’s construct and the two characters’ arcs.  YET, we find that after the first 13 episodes, their interactions are few, far between, and frankly, don’t speak to the reasons why these two SHOULD be interacting in the first place.

Quinn and Rachel were initially designed to be enemies.  Opposites.  Cheerleader/loser.  Popular girl/unpopular girl.  Traditionally beautiful/unconventionally beautiful.  They are each other’s foils, and represent the core dynamic the show addresses - Quinn is the embodiment of the Cheerios, the cool kids, and Rachel is the embodiment of Glee Club, the losers.  On paper, they should hate each other.  But in one of the show’s true brilliant moments, Rachel reached out to Quinn when she got pregnant, setting aside all past animosity, and made her feel accepted.  This gesture itself is an embodiment of one of the show's main themes.  What's not to like?

My favorite Quinn Fabray moment is the scene she shares with Rachel, and then Puck, in “Sectionals.”  I’ll expound on the Puck part later - for now, let’s discuss the Rachel portion.  Rachel initially pursued Quinn with friendship, but her obsession with Finn led her to destroy his relationship with Quinn by telling him the secret of the baby’s father.  But in this wonderful scene of tension, silence, and yet so much meaning, it is Quinn who forgives her for the transgression.  This is the moment where Quinn chooses kindness, which is key to her character.  It’s a beautiful scene.  They are supposed to hate each other.  They’ve both transgressed against the other, and yet... they don’t hate each other.

What more, they actually complement each other.  Beneath their superficial polarities, Rachel and Quinn are actually quite similar.  Their character traits both deal with control and determination, and their arcs both speak to the negotiation of self vs. others.  These factors simultaneously attract and repel one another, making for a fascinating dynamic. The fact of the matter is that Quinn and Rachel were designed to interact, and all signs at the end of “Sectionals” seemed to point towards this development.    

Of course, the Back 9 was sorely lacking in this respect, and the pair’s complete and utter dearth of screentime in these episodes makes me cranky to this day.  Season 2 has stepped up, however, in that they’ve at least spoken to one another.  “Brittany/Britney” finds Rachel asking Quinn for a favor in regards to Finn, which has got to be a touchy subject - and yet, Quinn obliged, in a scene we were unfortunately not privy to.  “Duets” shows Rachel encouraging Quinn to sing with Sam and win the competition.  However, this specific interaction, while lovely to see, has little relevance to what their dynamic should be at this stage.

No, the original direction for Quinn’s and Rachel’s characters seems to have been largely dropped or ignored, and so I go into every episode hoping things will turn around, only to get irrationally angry when Quinn says she wants to punch Rachel in the face.  Way to go, writers.  I love it when you completely undo perfectly good character development for no good reason other than throwaway jokes.

As far as I’m concerned, Quinn’s character needs to exhibit a healthy appreciation for the acceptance of the Glee Club when everything else in her life turned her back on her.  And while it’s true that the whole club came together to support her in adorable ways like in “Keep Holding On” and “Lean On Me,” there are two characters in particular I want to see Quinn be grateful to: Mercedes and Rachel.  Those two girls were treated atrociously by Quinn, yet they both stepped up to the plate and offered their kindness to her even when the situation didn’t really pertain to them.  (It’s for this last detail that I’m hesitant to include Puck and Finn in this category - both boys felt obligation, however sweet and well-intentioned, towards Quinn on account of feeling fatherly.  The fact that Mercedes and Rachel were so peripheral to the circumstances makes their actions all the more lovely.)

So, when it comes to Quinn and kindness, I want to see it manifest in the form of gratitude to Glee - Mercedes and Rachel in particular.  We got a snippet of this in “Duets,” when she tells Sam she sticks with Glee because they’ve been good to her; and I won’t lie, I cheered when she said it.  If I ran the show, I would push for the construct that Quinn is terribly protective of Glee Club out of thankfulness, and that she fights back when the Glee Club is threatened.  But alas, I do not run the show, and instead Quinn toes the line when it comes to acting out against her popularity.

Regardless, I still want some actual positive interaction between the people that Quinn has held tenuous friendships with, and perhaps even a storyline that allows for this to be developed simultaneously.  Season 2 so far is generally on the right track, but still lacking in the character specifics.  Quinn is capable of kindness, and even in her solitude, I want the writers to actively demonstrate that.  



Monday, January 17, 2011

Checking in with Quinn Fabray: Part One


Long before Season 2 started, we’d been spoiled with the information that Quinn was going to go back to the cheerleading squad to reclaim her position as “HBIC” of McKinley High School.  Since then, I’ve seen a lot of kerfuffle out there over whether or not she would actually do such a thing - especially in light of her scene in “Mattress” where she tells Sue she wants to be a part of a club that’s proud to have her, like Glee Club.  It seemed that Quinn had largely rejected the Cheerios, so why would she go back?

It’s easy: power.  I don’t really have an issue with Quinn returning to her former role, because it makes sense for the character.  Quinn likes being in control.  Having power.  Power and control define her.  She’s the girl who wears the same uniform everyday and treats it like it's armor.  The girl raised with strict values and a belief system that didn’t bend, but broke instead.  Her existence is as tightly wound as her ponytail. 

Even though she got pregnant and wore babydoll dresses and let her hair down, it still doesn’t ring false to me that Quinn would try and get her power back should she have the chance - which she did.  It affords her certain luxuries in the social structure that are hard to pass up, especially once you’ve had them and lost them.  I get that.  Rather, I’m more interested in discussing two things that I think are more discerning of her character: how she gets said power back, and what she does once she has it. 

So how does Quinn regain her power?  By complete manipulation, of course.  She bribes Sue with confetti cannons, and rats out Santana’s “summer surgery” - 100% schemed.  That’s not terribly out of character.  Other than Sue Sylvester herself, Quinn is perhaps the sneakiest on the show.  And, she’s clearly very smart - making her a lethal combination when it comes to manipulation. 

Quinn she steps on Santana to get her power back.  And that’s key.  What is this saying about Miss Fabray?  I admit, I find her moral compass completely fascinating.  It stays intact with most things - except when it stands in the way of something she desperately wants.  It seems that if you back Quinn Fabray in a corner, she will fight you.  Literally, perhaps - her hallway confrontation with Santana was no girlish scrap: those ladies were brawling. 

Quinn’s actions towards Santana do read as a betrayal.  She ratted her out.  But are Santana and Quinn even friends?  Their dynamic as companions is referenced repeatedly, but never truly explained.  They are frequently in each others’ company and they share many similar characteristics, but they have never, not once, done something remotely nice for one another.  I wouldn’t classify them as friends, and so that makes Quinn’s backstabbing of Santana even more interesting.  I’m not saying it wasn’t mean, or bitchy - but I’m hesitant to classify it as a betrayal, exactly. Quinn shows, and has shown, no loyalty to Santana because Santana shows, and has shown, no loyalty to her.  They are mutually insulting to one another, and yet they still get lumped together because they wear the same uniform.  It’s a riveting and nebulous dynamic I wish the show would explore a bit more.

So as far as I’m concerned, Quinn stepping on Santana to get her power back is in character, and not necessarily a regression in development.  I prefer not to summarize Quinn solely by her cold-hearted pre-baby persona, nor by her pregnancy-induced streak of kindness.  In Season 1, she was those two things, rather separately.  Season 2 is about synthesizing the two.  Now she is both.  And that makes for an interesting character.  A character who can successfully be both.  Internal conflict, party of one!

Truly, the only thing I care about Quinn’s recoup of power is what she chooses to do with it.  I don’t care that she has it - it makes sense that she should want it.  But this time around, she must choose to use it wisely or her character arc is stunted.

Quinn’s first round as Head Cheerio was a Reign of Terror - she was needlessly cruel to Rachel Berry, and went out of her way to keep the Glee Club under her heel.  She was obsessed with holding onto Finn, and verbally abused anyone that came in her path.  She lied, schemed, and hurt a lot of people.

Now she has that power back, and all I want is for her use it for good.  And for the most part, she has.  Season 2 hasn’t shown any examples of Quinn terrorizing any of the students in McKinley High.  She can still sling an insult like nobody’s business; but actions speak louder than words, and Quinn’s Season 2 actions do indicate that she has changed.  Again, I maintain that throwing Santana under the bus points to a fundamental part of Quinn that will perhaps never change.  But going out of her way to make others miserable?  Quinn seems to have given it up, and I am all for that.

“Duets” gives us the best indication of Quinn’s relationship with popularity, when she flat out tells Sam, “What’s the point of being popular if you can’t do what you want?”  And that’s the key.  It doesn’t matter if Quinn chooses to be popular as long as she’s choosing what she wants.  Quinn was raised in an environment where she always did what she should.  Character growth needs to point her away from that, showing us that she’s learned something - and the writers have hinted at that.  Of course, “Never Been Kissed” showed her going back to Sue Sylvester for counsel on keeping up appearances with Sam, so inconsistency is still there - unfortunately.  On the whole, however, I think the developments regarding Quinn, power, and popularity are spot-on and recognizable onscreen.



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